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State told proposed textbooks biased, flawed

by R.A. DYER on 9/7/01.

AUSTIN - The State Board of Education should reject several proposed middle-school textbooks, residents told the panel Thursday, because they contain factual errors and pro-environmentalist bias.

The speakers, including representatives of the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation and the Texas Citizens for a Sound Economy, said new science books for grades six, seven and eight unfairly portray the significance of acid rain, deforestation, global warming and other environmental issues.

"I am sad to report that all are replete with errors of fact, errors of omission, overt bias aimed at directing students to take specific political actions, and perhaps, worst of all, very little focus on real-world situations," said Texas Public Policy Foundation senior fellow Duggan Flanakin, who examined a dozen teacher editions of the textbooks.

Textbook industry representatives said they will review the complaints and correct any factual errors.

Under review are books by the publishing houses of Holt, Rinehart & Winston; Glencoe, McGraw, Hill; Prentice Hall and RonJon Publishing.

Controversy over its annual textbook decision is nothing new for the State Board of Education. Over the years, groups have complained about such things as the textbooks' treatment of slavery, evolution and gender bias. The state board's decision will directly affect the state's $320 million-a-year public school textbook market, as well as sales in other states that use Texas books.

Ashley McIlvain, a spokeswoman for the liberal Texas Freedom Network, said the opposing groups are less concerned about accurate textbooks than with pushing their own political agenda.

"Once again, a handful of extremists are hijacking a process designed to produce a quality education," McIlvain said.

A 94-page analysis by Flanakin found that books used conflicting estimates of rainforest destruction - from 12,000 square miles to 120,000 square miles - and varied definitions of acid rain. He also cited inaccuracies or factual omissions, generally in the area of environmental science.

One example, according to Flanakin, is a reference to endangered species included in Holt Science & Technology: Texas Edition.

"The sole reference to a species deemed endangered ... incorrectly states that 'today, elephant hunting is illegal,' " he wrote. "This may be true in Kenya and some other nations, but in nations like Zimbabwe, legal elephant hunting is hailed as a fruitful element in an overall elephant habitat conservation strategy."

State Education Board Chairwoman Grace Shore, R-Longview, said the board has no authority to reject books because of perceived bias, but rather to declare whether they conform to curriculum standards.


R.A. Dyer, (512) 476-4294